I posted last week about my first Moth story slam experience. I asked Linda Lenzke to share her experience with readers as well–and she agreed. Have you participated in a Story Slam? Share your experience here! See guest writer’s guidelines. – Sarah
By Linda Lenzke
“True stories from the heart of Madison, WI. Host Adam Rostad brings storytellers together to tell true stories based on a theme, from real people.”— From the Madison Story Slam website.
First, a little backstory before I tell this tale about my first — and only — story slam performance, Hungover: A Madison Story Slam Baptism.
Madison Story Slam is one of a number of storytelling open mics in Madison which typically spotlight spoken word monologue-style true stories, a hybrid of storytelling, stand-up comedy (or tragedy depending on the story), and performance in front of an audience. Some feature an element of competition, most are based on a theme, and prizes, or at least applause and laughter, are the reward for the storyteller.
Madison Story Slam, which will celebrate its Fifth Anniversary on February 15th at a special story slam event, is described by founder and host Adam Rostad as follows:
“We host events around Madison that are open to the public for people to come tell a true 7-10-minute story from their life. Stories are usually based on a theme that will be announced ahead of time. A panel of judges will judge stories based on content, time, and storytelling ability. But don’t worry, the competition part isn’t taken overly seriously. The crowds are friendly and are always very kind to storytellers.”
A little bit of background about me. I hail from a long line of oral historians, beloved family members who knew the value of a good story and the pleasure experienced when sharing it. They relished in the telling and retelling of their stories, embellishing, adding, and subtracting details in the service of the tale or life lesson. After attending reminiscence-writing workshops with Sarah White of First-Person Productions, I began putting words to page, telling stories about my lived experience. My blog, Mixed Metaphors, Oh My! was launched six years ago this month.
I’m not a stranger to the stage. I’ve acted in high school and college, and in the past performed stand-up comedy which featured observational humor about my life and relationships. Years ago, I was also a member of a women’s improv company, Acting Outat Apple Island and I’ve written and produced spoken word monologues for the stage, including Conceal & Carry: Queers Exposed.
Lastly, I’m a recovering alcoholic for over 30 years. This fact figures into my decision to tell a story about my first blackout at my first Madison Story Slam event, Hungover.
It was November 18, 2017. I arrived alone at Wil-Mar and signed-up on the roster of the evening’s storytellers. I’m a natural storyteller with friends and family, however, as I’ve gotten older, rather than becoming more at ease on stage, I exhibit all the common anxiety symptoms: weak knees, shallow breathing, mild dizziness, irregular heartbeat, excessive perspiration, and an uncontrollable desire to flee. I remained, and found a table to sit at as I was joined by a Madison Story Slam star, ‘Meatman’ Sosnowski. It presented an opportunity for me to ask questions about story slam conventions and demystify what was about to unfold. A friend, Elisa arrived for moral support and joined me at the table. I relaxed a little.
I was second in the line-up, and after the first storyteller received a warm welcome, laughter, and enthusiastic applause, it was my turn. After being introduced, I opened my story in the tradition of AA meetings, “Hello, my name is Linda and I’m an alcoholic.”
I paused for effect which was followed by a l-o-n-g silence. It may have been a misstep. My monologue took a more serious turn than I had intended. The audience, which was prepared for another drunkalogue story, was uncertain whether to laugh, or not, as I proceeded to share my tale about the night of my high school graduation and my first blackout from alcohol.
The audience did respond with reserved laughter when I mentioned that when my parents gave me luggage as my high school graduation gift, it was clearly a hint to leave home. There was more laughter when I talked about joining friends following the dinner with my parents, and after purchasing the extra-large-sized orange drinks at the Spot Drive-In, and after we dumped half of it out, we filled it with gin.
We ended up at Leslie’s Continental Club in a part of town my father had forbidden me to ever set foot. The bar was closed because it was after hours, yet Leslie had an apartment attached at the back of the bar. We drank more and told stories until I had to use the bathroom.
Most people who’ve drank too much may have experienced ‘bed spins.’ When I sat on the toilet, I began having ‘toilet spins’ as I looked at all of Leslie’s freshly-laundered socks, hanging from every surface in the bathroom to dry, not in any order. I sat for an undetermined amount of time matching socks in my mind before I passed out on the bathroom floor with my underwear at my ankles.
There’s more to this story–which you can listen to in its entirety when you click on the link below. What was a both a bonus and a surprise to my storytelling was it sparked another story, this time by the host. Adam proceeded to tell an impromptu personal and poignant story about his mother who was an alcoholic. This is the gift of first-person storytelling — we all have stories to tell and they help us connect as a community, tribe, affinity group, or clan. We resonate with our shared experiences and often delight in our differences.
At the end of the evening, raffle prizes were awarded, including local craft beer and a set of Cards Against Humanity (with the expansion set!). I didn’t stay to find out who was voted the winner. I suspected it was my tablemate, ‘Meatman’, who had a loyal following and was a renowned story slam performer. What I learned at my Madison Story Slam baptism was you need a good story anda confident, entertaining performance. I’ll work on the latter before I tell my next story on stage. There will be more stories.
To listen to my Madison Story SlamHungover performance, click on the podcast link at the 11:09 minute timestamp. https://madisonstoryslam.podbean.com/e/story-slam-hungover-part-1/
To read more of my stories, visit my blog, https://www.mixedmetaphorsohmy.com/
© 2020 Linda Lenzke
Upcoming Madison Story Slam events:
February 5, 2020 at Stateline Distillery, 6:45 pm for Worst Date
February 7, Monona Public Library, 6:30-8:00 for “Wing It”
February 7, Wisconsin Historical Society, 8:00-11:00 for “Just Bust!” open mic, a story slam with a Black History Month theme
February 15, 2020 at Wil-Mar, 6:30 pm for Madison Story Slam’s 5th Anniversary